Second interview – will you prepare a presentation?

There you are, just heard that you have made the cut and you’re through to the 2nd interview stage! Hopefully you have asked how many candidates have progressed to that stage, so that you have a sense of the amount of competition you have. Continue reading “Second interview – will you prepare a presentation?”

How to prepare for a video interview

Video interviews are becoming common practice, as more and more employers (but also recruitment firms) cut travel costs and are looking for more efficient ways to manage their time. However, in my experience, few individuals are well versed in making a good impression by video link and as this is often the final filter to decide whether you are invited for an in-person meeting, it is important to prepare well. Continue reading “How to prepare for a video interview”

CV writing. Or filming ..?

You’re looking to change jobs or you’re just looking for a job, you may have sent your CV off a few (dozen) times and have had no real result or joy.

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes, it’s difficult to get a feel for someone’s personality and creativity from a CV and cover letter.

And from your point of view, it is difficult to stand out from the crowd. So the choice is either get really creative with your CV, or think of an alternative way of representing yourself. Unless you’re applying for a graphic design job, there are limits to what you should do with your CV, as its ‘personality’ must be in keeping with the type of position you’re interested in or qualified for.

So what’s the alternative?

We already see that the making of a video clip is part of many entry level position selection processes. These positions see a high volume of applications and it is much quicker to judge candidates visually than from their CV. Of course, in a sense it is also self-selecting, as some people are not prepared to go to the trouble of filming themselves, whereas they may have been tempted to just fire off a CV.

Unilever says that since it has started to use video as part of the job application process, it is getting a higher rate of acceptances on job offers and it has improved its diversity.

So how is this relevant to executive roles and positions?

Well, it isn’t. Not yet anyway.

And here is my point. In my opinion in a world where the number of searches on YouTube are similar to the number of Google searches, video / visual representation is becoming increasingly important. Just look at how many video posts there are on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

So, it will only be a matter of time before we will be presenting ourselves by an introductory email and a link to a video clip … and perhaps a CV attachment as well.  For any position, from shop assistant to CEO.

As that time has not yet come, what an opportunity to stand out from the crowd right now!

So how do you go about it? Here are a few steps to consider.

  1. Plan before you start writing your script.

It is important to make an impression as quickly as possible, so introduce yourself and sum up in a sentence or two why you’re the best person for the job. Follow this with quantifiable achievements, plus comments or examples about your leadership style and your experience to date. Don’t be a clown, however if you can inject a bit of humour then that will make you sound more confident and will give the recipient an idea of your personality.

  1. Rehearse

Know what you are going to say, in what order and what words you will use. Make sure you do not come across as a newsreader. You could put post-it notes with bullet points around the camera if you need an aid. Think about your posture, body language and facial expressions – all this, whilst making sure that this is you and not some act that you cannot live up to in the long run!

  1. Shoot

Do a few test runs to make sure the lighting is right, you have paid attention to the background and that you are happy with the distance of the camera. Just filming your face as a close up would be weird. However it is your choice whether you want to sit, stand, just film your upper torso behind a desk or anything else. Find some examples on YouTube and see what you like and what works for you. Shoot several takes until you are happy with the end result.

  1. Edit

If you’re not a confident editor, avoid using too many graphics or animations – although a title with your name and contact details is a good idea. If you want to splash the cash, then find a professional editor (probably a 19 year old with a penchant for online gaming). The aim should be to create a coherent video without detracting from your message. Remember, you’re being judged on your skills, personality and presentation, not your video editing skills.

Finally, seek out honest feedback from a trusted friend or mentor.

  1. Submit

It is probably easiest to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo in order to share it with any recipient. I’d recommend that you keep your video private, so that only people with the link can see it.

Then create a well-worded email and Bob’s your uncle.

Will this get you the job? No. Will it make you stand out and be more likely to be picked out for an interview? Most likely.


Good luck and let me know if you need any help.

Maarten Jonckers

First interview – how to prepare

Exciting times, you have been invited to meet a potential new employer for what sounds like a great opportunity for furthering your career.

Problem is, you probably are not the only person they will be meeting. Assuming a shortlist of three candidates (and at least one internal candidate), it seems that your chance of success is 1:4.

So how can you swing the odds in your favour?

There are plenty of online articles and books about clever ways to answer interview questions, how to walk, talk and shake hands with your potential new employer and there are plenty of Do’s and Don’t’s regarding your conduct in the meeting and of course the dreaded dress code.
After interviewing potential short list candidates on behalf of my clients for more than 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that if you prepare well for the interview and stick to your plan then you have nothing to fear about.

Whether you have attended scores of interviews, whether you are naturally a confident person or whether you believe the interviewer will not be as senior as you are, if you do not prepare, the likelihood is that you will fail.

So what to do? Well you can’t go far wrong by following these tips:

1. Prepare a 10 minute mini commercial about yourself:
a. Expect the interviewer to have read your CV, so start off by giving only a brief overview of the companies and positions you have held (in no more than 2-3 sentences).
b. Then highlight the experience you have gained that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for, ie ‘the biggest team I have managed was at XYZ, where we achieved the following’, or ‘whilst at XYZ I lead the transformation project that lead to a 180 degree change in company culture’.
c. Highlight 2-3 specific achievements that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for. You really want to talk in quite some detail about what the situation was, what plan you / your team came up with, how you implemented it and what the final result was. Note: the more specific you can be in terms of % or £, the more memorable it will be for the interviewer. Achievements ought to be time based, specific and bench marked, it is the difference between saying ‘whilst at XYZ I significantly improved sales’ and saying ‘in 2013 I increased sales by 15% or £1.5m on a like-for-like basis against a market increase of only 2%’.

Btw you prepare this 10 minute mini commercial so that you can answer the ‘so tell me a bit about yourself’ question. You need to practise it, so that you know what you’re going to say and in what order. Don’t be word perfect, because you might come across as a news reader. Make sure to stick to 10mins – shorter will make you wishy washy, longer may make you verbose (please note that most interviewers will start to switch off after 10mins), however with 10 mins you’ll come across as succinct, to the point and (hopefully) with great clarity.
2. Research the company:
a. Read their website enough times for you to be able to speak knowledgeable about the business.
b. Search the internet for recent news articles on the company.
c. Visit the company’s stores, talk to the store staff, observe what works well and make a list of the things you think do not work well / want to ask questions about. Make a purchase, use their product and have an opinion about the experience and the product.
d. Check the online user experience, compare the digital customer experience to the one you had in store. How did the check out procedure work, was the order delivered on time. What did the packaging look like?

3. Research the competition:
a. How do they compare in service, price points, quality, availability, customer journey on and off line?
b. Speak to customers, why do they shop there? Do they also shop at the business you’re interviewing with? Why, or why not?

4. Research the interviewer(s):
a. LinkedIn is of course a great source for this, however are there also any articles published by or about your interviewer? Check!
b. Is there anyone in the interviewer’s background, who you know? Can you find out some background information on the interviewer? Even to know where they have last holidayed or what sports team they support can help you find common ground, which is so important in establishing rapport.

5. Prepare a SWOT analysis or a brief presentation based on your findings on the business. Preface it with ‘without any concrete information, but more as an outsider looking in, I believe that…’. You need to let the interviewer know in a subtle way, that you have done your home work. And you have done it thoroughly.
Btw if you (and I suggest that you do) leave a few slides / printed pages behind, then make sure they are printed on good quality paper, make sure that your name is printed on each page and depending on how many pages you leave behind, either put them in a nice folder or have them bound professionally. It is amazing how a few quid spent on a simple hand out can make a massive difference.

6. Find out what the company’s dress code is (even better, find out what the interviewer’s dress code is) and either match it or slightly better it. It’s better to be a bit neater than a bit more casual than expected…

7. Make a list of topics you want to talk about / questions you want to ask. The first question after your 10mins mini commercial ought to be ‘although I have done a lot of research, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you what the company has been through in the last 3 years, where it is today and where it aims to be in 3 years time’. Followed by ‘what has prompted the business to want to recruit a new xyz and what would this person need to achieve in their first 6 months in order to be deemed successful’.
Btw, the more you can find out about the interviewer’s or the company’s expectations for this role before you have to start answering their questions the better it is, because it will give you a good idea of what to highlight in your background later on to pique their interest.

8. Prepare yourself for the difficult questions – ‘what are your salary expectations’ (never give them a number, because you will be committed to it), ‘what are your weaknesses’ (give them a past development need that you have now overcome or a development need that has nothing to do with the job you are doing or the job that you are interviewing for).

9. Before you go to the interview think about how you can give some anecdotal evidence of your achievements. Just quoting facts and figures will ensure that the interviewer will forget your achievements, whilst if you wrap them up in an anecdote and tell them a ‘memorable story’ then that is far more likely to stick. Even better if it is a funny story, if you can make the interviewer smile then you are definitely building rapport.
Btw, don’t tell jokes, stick to the truth, don’t set out to be the funny guy. However, we all have experiences that we can smile about – share them!

10. Prepare a few ‘closes’ to the meeting, so that you can chose which one to use depending on the level of rapport you have built. A pushy, in your face close would be: ‘do you at this stage have any reservations regarding my ability to do the job or my ability to fit in from a cultural or personality perspective’. Less direct would be ‘I enjoyed the meeting, what are the next steps please’. Note: you will learn more from the first one, but it might not always be appropriate to use it.

Good luck and make sure to enjoy the experience, because you will come across as more confident if you set out to enjoy it. If you have any questions or need more advice, feel free to contact me.

Had a job offer … but don’t want to accept?

So you have been through a few rounds of interviews, you feel flattered by the attention and (possibly sooner than expected) you have been offered the job.

Great! But wait …. you’re not sure this is the dream job for you. What next?

There could be a whole host of reasons that you have come this far, but do not want to proceed:

  • Maybe the interview process has been haphazard – perhaps long gaps in between interviews (how urgent is this?), no feedback from meetings (do they value their staff?), seemingly round after round of interviews, tests and meetings (do they know what they want or are they indecisive?)
  • Maybe during the interview process the company has had negative press – could be anything from an industrial tribunal to poor results reported – or the position’s circumstances have changed. Perhaps your future line manager has left the business or the company is going through a restructure.
  • Maybe you have not been entirely honest with yourself and the business. Perhaps you have no intention of leaving your current business and you were just ‘kicking tyres’.
  • Maybe the offer is so under par, that there is no point in negotiating, because you feel that this is an indication of how they value the position.

Whatever it might be, you need to extract yourself gracefully (ideally without burning any bridges because you do not know when you might come across the decision makers again – retail is a small world), whilst also staying true to yourself. In other words give them the real reason, rather than a feeble excuse.

Expect them to try and persuade you to change your mind, after all they have made a significant investment in time to arrive at this point, so make certain when you decline an offer you give them a precise and concise reason, from which you cannot and will not be swayed. And apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Some are easy, for example: “the company’s recent annual results are a real surprise to me and I feel that I have been misled or have misunderstood the business’ current trading performance. I have set myself the target to join a growing business, rather than a turnaround”.

Others are more difficult: “I feel that the position is not significantly different from the one I have currently and know that my prospects for promotion are greater where I am”.

Or: “On reflection, I have misgivings about the fact that the company culture is so different than I am used to, and I’m concerned that this appointment will not work out for either you or me”.

My advice is to make sure that the reason for turning the offer down, cannot be (easily) rectified. If it is about money, they may offer you more. If it is about not being able to work from home, they may offer you that concession.

The financial state of their business or current performance, the company culture or the lack of available progression are not easily fixed…

Need help? Call me!

Salary negotiation? When to call it quits

It’s tempting to let out a sigh of relief or a shout of joy on receiving a job offer. You probably feel like you have crossed the finish line of a very long race. However it’s important to realise there’s still more work to be done.

Rather than accepting immediately, it’s beneficial to take a day to understand what has been presented. This will give you time to weigh up your options, including your potential salary and benefits package. Once prepared, you will then have the chance to negotiate what has been offered to you — this can be intimidating, but it’s absolutely essential to the hiring process.

However, while salary negotiation is necessary prior to accepting any potential job offer, you must know when to stop negotiating and either accept or deny an offer completely.

What are you negotiating?

Before and during your discussions, you need to continually refer back to your initial reasoning for wanting to negotiate. While negotiation is beneficial to success on your career path, don’t just do it because you feel it’s expected of you. Do your research and gain as much knowledge as possible about the salary ranges for this position in your industry sector. This will allow you completely understand what you are negotiating for. Was the offer just slightly out of your range or way off? No one is going to accept an unreasonable offer.

Bear in mind these negotiations don’t have to be limited solely to money. Many individuals choose to negotiate other benefits that are important to them – it may be the opportunity to work from home once a week, extra holidays or a car allowance rather than an actual car. Whatever it might be, your discussion should be based on research, not on simply demanding the salary you think you deserve.

When should you accept?

Accepting an offer is easy if you have clearly defined your needs to a potential employer. There isn’t a sounding bell for the perfect timing to stop negotiating and accept an offer, but you will feel more confident when you’ve taken the necessary time to prepare, consider, and ask for what you want.

The package might be great, but it’s your job to tie up any loose ends before finalising the deal. Make a final assessment of the position by taking a deeper look into the job content, the company culture, as well your needs. Your acceptance of the offer should ultimately be based on your judgement of all factors.

When do you need to reject an offer?

During your salary negotiation, it’s important to completely understand why and what you are looking for based on research and your needs. Even if you’ve done your homework and conducted an appropriate negotiation, an employer doesn’t have to change their offer.

Your decision to decline should come when your needs aren’t being met. Be sure to do this promptly, confidently, and respectfully. There is no reason to burn a bridge with this employer.

The thought of rejecting an offer might be hard to swallow. After all the hard work and a potentially long hiring process, no one wants to start again. But there’s no reason to accept an offer for a position you’re less than thrilled about, or one that’s below par.

Your decision should be based on your confidence that your needs are being met. Never settle for less.

Need more help? Give me a call!

WHAT?! Made a mistake? How to minimise career damage

How to recover from a major work-related mistake and minimise career damage.

It’s happened to the best of us. That spine-chilling moment when you realise you’ve made a monumental error that could cost you your job. Examples that spring to mind include missing a zero off a proposal on a multi-thousand pound deal, mistakenly sending an offensive email to a senior executive (or client), losing a key contract through missing a deadline. Whether it was down to carelessness, lack of knowledge or preparation, or the result of a couple of drinks too many at a business event, your boss wants to know:

  • Do you understand what happened?
  • Do you understand how it happened?
  • Are you remorseful?
  • What are you going to do to prevent it happening again?

Own up quick

As soon as you discover your mistake, go and own up to it (in person) before you get hauled in front of the boss. Make it clear that you understand the seriousness of your mistake, and what plans you have for dealing with it.

Face the music

Understand that there may be disciplinary consequences such as a verbal or written warning. Accept it gracefully and don’t make excuses, blame somebody else or try and deny what happened.

Handle the consequences

Take ownership of your actions, accept the situation for what it is, and resolve never to make the same mistake again.

Be discreet

There’s no need to make a soap opera out of your situation. It can be tempting to re-tell the story in the pub, or joke about it with your team-mates. But remember that not everybody will know what happened, and this could result in even more people knowing the situation, making the mistake bigger than it was in the first place. Let it just become yesterday’s news by itself.

Use it to your advantage

While it can be an uncomfortable experience, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from things going smoothly. Hopefully you can take something positive from the situation and improve your performance as a result.

Move on

Don’t let your mistake cast a shadow over the rest of your career. Everybody makes mistakes. Once you’ve faced up to it, done what you can to fix it, and accepted the consequences put it down to experience and move on.


Interview dress code – what (not) to wear!

Ah, the good old days when things were easy and when turning up in a suit was always a safe bet… I blame ‘dress down Fridays’, it has all become so confusing from thereon in.

Now blokes, you’ll have to get in touch with your feminine side – and that doesn’t mean turning up for your interview dressed as Eddie Izzard…

And ladies, it ain’t that much easier for you – Power suit? Are trousers acceptable? Twin set? Dress? Skirt? Above the knee or below the knee?

What do you do?

The importance of making a good first impression gives weight to the argument that you need to carefully think about what you’re going to wear to that 1st interview (and also to the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent interviews, because you cannot turn up in the same outfit every time!).

Your safest bet is to try to find out the company’s dress code and the dress code of the person you’re meeting. Then copy whichever is the smartest dress.

If you do not know anyone who can give you reliable info on a company’s dress code, then phone switch board and ask how the directors are generally dressed. If you’re not sure about the response, then phone again at another time aiming to speak to a different receptionist.

Whilst we’re on the subject of dress code, have a think about your general appearance: hair, jewellery, piercings, tattoos et al.

My view is that generally you do not know the personal likes and dislikes of the person you’re meeting, therefore do not give them the opportunity to dismiss your candidature based on your appearance or first impression. Dress and present yourself within conservative boundaries. Take off excessive jewellery, take out your visible piercings (gents this includes your earrings), go to the hairdresser if you’re not sure that you can make your hairdo acceptable and cover up any tattoos if you can. Also, often forgotten: polish your shoes!

I may sound old fashioned and middle aged, but then again your interviewer might have old fashioned and conservative views. Just do not take a chance.

You may think that they should accept you as you are, however if you are not prepared to flex your style in order to make a good fit, then one could conclude that you are generally inflexible and come across as someone with a point to make. These tend not to be qualities that employers are looking for.

A suit isn’t always the right choice

I pitched for business once, where the client was a young lifestyle brand. I turned up in a suit and tie and could not convince them that I understood their brand and culture (even though I was a client and had been buying their clothes for some years – up until that point…).

A big lesson learned!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat

Does your new job feel all wrong? What to do …

wrong job cartoonThe hangover of your leaving party has just about waned and you have joined your new company.

The first few days (perhaps weeks) were taken up by the induction programme and generally finding your way around the business (and the building). You’re now at the stage where you are starting to develop a routine and your feet are under the desk so to speak.

All should be well, however in the back of your mind something is telling you that all is not as it should be … You’re putting this slight feeling of unease down to new-starter’s jitters and fear of the unknown, but you’re slowly coming to the realisation that you might have made a mistake joining this business.

Arghh…! What do you do now?

Deep breath in, stiff drink, a gruelling hour in the gym or anything that works for you in order to take a step back and take stock.

Thankfully, this situation does not happen often but something has clearly gone wrong somewhere. It is now a matter of working out what to do. Grin and bear it? Resign on the spot? Start applying for jobs on the quiet?

In my experience it is worth doing the following, not necessarily in this order:

1. Let’s determine what it is that is not quite right. It could be the job content, your boss or your relationship with your boss, your colleagues or the general culture of the business.

2. Whatever it is, can it be fixed? Is it something that you can learn to live with? Or has the rot set in and there is only one option – leave.

3. However uncomfortable this might be, you have to talk to your boss. You’re both adults (assuming no paper girls or boys are reading this article) and you need to discuss this in the most neutral and objective manner possible. After all, your boss does not want a disgruntled employee, does not want to invest time, money and effort in fully inducting, integrating and perhaps training a person who might leave within their first 12 months. So, have the conversation, making certain to stick with the facts, no emotion. This is as much your fault as anyone else’s.

4. After this conversation it is decision time, if your boss can change things so as to accommodate you then make certain that you agree timescales and measures / review times. You’d want to avoid your boss paying you lip service, trying to find a quick replacement (maybe the 2nd candidate on the short list?) and to turf you out just before the end of your probation period …

5. You’ll find that if genuine changes have been made and you feel more comfortable in staying with the business, your relationship with your boss will be far stronger than if none of this had happened. After all, you have faced adversity together and have found a solution to the problem. Together.

6. However, if it transpires that you have made a mistake, didn’t do your research properly or indeed you were sold a pup, then leaving would be the only option.

7. The question then is – when? Of course, if this all happens within the first few weeks of joining the new business then you have the option to phone your old company to see whether you can have your old job back (another good reason to always leave on good terms…!). If that door is closed, then you’ll have to make a decision. If you leave immediately, without having a job to go to then you will be in a weaker negotiation position with any new opportunity then if you were still working. However, when explaining that you made a mistake, it is more likely that you are believed than the person who stayed only 12 months in a job because they found that they made a mistake. Really? It took you 12 months to find that out and do something about? If you leave immediately, the advantage you have is that you can make finding the next opportunity your full time job.

8. If you do decide to stay whilst looking for the next opportunity, then step up a gear and deliver your very best work whilst at this business. When you depart, you want to be regarded as a good leaver who, despite recognising that the business was not right for them, still delivered good work.

9. Finally, don’t beat yourself up, we all make mistakes. Just make sure to learn from it and be extra careful in your subsequent career moves…and don’t do it again!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat

Preparing for a 2nd (or 3rd) interview with a potential new employer

Congratulations, you have aced the first interview and you are invited back for a subsequent interview / meeting with a prospective new employer. What could possibly go wrong?

There are a few points to consider here, some of which relate to your preparation for the first interview…


  1. If after the 1st interview you don’t really know whether this opportunity is or is not right for you, then it is probably because you have not asked the right questions in the 1st meeting and this is probably down to poor preparation. Your 1st interview is as much part of your due diligence process as it is part of the hiring authority’s. So prepare well, ask the uncomfortable questions, do not assume anything and make sure that at the end of the meeting you know whether you want to be invited back or not.


  1. However, if after the first meeting you are not 100% convinced that this is the right company, right position or the right fit for you then you must communicate this to the person who is arranging the 2nd meeting. After all, if they weren’t 100% convinced that you were the right person either, then the chances are that this is probably not right for either party, therefore it might be best to stop the process and avoid wasting each other’s time. If it is decided that you should go ahead and meet a 2nd time anyway, then this will be a very different meeting in which you can ‘clear the air’ and have a very open conversation about your and their concerns. Based on the outcome of this conversation both parties can decide to go ahead or abort, either way, you will come across as a professional, who wishes to carefully manage their career without making change for changes sake.


  1. Assuming you are keen to go ahead and meet for the 2nd (or 3rd) time, then how do you prepare? How do you make sure that there is added value for you, rather than just a repeat of the 1st meeting, but with another person? Again, some of this will come down to the fact finding questions you asked in your 1st interview. Assuming you are meeting with a different person this time around, you may chose to verify your understanding around some of the facts you learned in the previous meeting – do I understand correctly that…? Is it true that…? As I understand it, this role will….? Your colleague described the culture as…., would you concur?
    Your aim here is to absolutely make certain that this is the right opportunity for you.


  1. One good way of finding out about opportunities within the business is to ask questions such as – what will happen to the current person in the role? (if they are leaving, why? Were there no opportunities for further progression?). What is the average tenure of people in senior positions and what is their background? (in other words, were they external hires or were they promoted?).


  1. It goes without saying that before the interview you need to do your homework on the person(s) you will be meeting. What is their background? Do you have common acquaintances or interests? If so, use these facts as an ice breaker. Depending on how well you got on with the 1st interviewer, you may ask them about advice on how to ‘handle’ the person you meet for the 2nd interview. 


  1. If you prepared a presentation for your 1st meeting, make sure to bring it to your subsequent meetings too. Make sure to make any appropriate amendments based on your findings from previous meetings.


  1. Do not assume that everything you told your first interviewer has been passed on to the next interviewer. Be prepared to give a repeat performance.


  1. Based on the information gained in the 1st meeting, you will probably have some idea of how you would tackle the challenges in the role. In most cases, it is worthwhile clarifying your understanding around these challenges, before giving an overview of your first 100 day plan. It does not need to be too detailed (unless asked for it), however they need to know that you have thought it through and that you have a plan…!


  1. It may be that an offer is extended in this meeting, make sure beforehand that you know what your expectations are and particularly make sure that you know what your minimum is, below which you will not accept. If you are offered in the meeting and it is below your expectations, do not decline or comment on it. Instead, thank them for the offer and ask whether you can think about it for 48 hours. Your search consultant / head hunter should negotiate the offer that is what they are paid for, so let them earn their money and expect them to negotiate an offer that will be acceptable to you. On the other hand, if the offer in the meeting meets or exceeds your expectation, then accept it and ask for it to be confirmed in writing.


Always, always, clarify at the end of the meeting what the process will be from here on (another two meetings? Who will make the final decision?) and to what timescales they are working. You need to manage your own expectations here and if possible, create a bit of urgency.


Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to lots more related articles and general tweets and discussion about the world of retail